Gene increases meat-eaters’ cancer risk

Gene factor: Study finds gene increases risk of developing bowel cancer from eating processed meats. Photo: SuppliedOne in three people carry a gene that significantly raises the risk of developing bowel cancer from eating processed meat, new research shows.
Shanghai night field

While it was already known that eating processed meat increased a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer, the study, published in the journal PLOS Genetics on Friday, found that for people who carry a common genetic variant, eating processed meat carries an even higher risk than for those who do not carry the gene.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in Australia. One in 10 Australian men and one in 15 Australian women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer by the time they reach 85. Almost 4000 Australians died of bowel cancer in 2011.

One of the researchers, Li Hsu, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre in Seattle, said the discovery provided “an important new insight into disease development”.

Another of the researchers, Jane Figueiredo from the University of Southern California, said the discovery could lead to more targeted cancer prevention strategies.

“Diet is a modifiable risk factor for colourectal cancer,” Dr Figueiredo said. “Our study is the first to understand whether some individuals are at higher or lower risk based on their genomic profile.”

About 30 genetic variants that make a person more susceptible to bowel cancer have been pinpointed throughout the genome. The study, which involved more than 18,000 patients from Australia, the US, Canada and Europe, is the first large-scale, genome-wide analysis of genetic variants and dietary patterns. Researchers searched 2.7 million genetic variants to identify those linked with the consumption of meat, fibre and fruit and vegetables.

Exactly how specific foods affect the activities of genes has not been established.

The researchers said a “plausible though speculative” explanation for its findings was that processed meat triggered an inflammatory or immunological response.

Wikipedia hits help track flu spread

Researchers saw a correlation between traffic to flu-related pages on Wikipedia and subsequent reports of illness by the Centres for Disease Control. Photo: David J. McIver, John S. BrownsteinThe number of hits recorded on Wikipedia articles could track the spread of flu and other illnesses faster than existing systems, research says.
Shanghai night field

Researchers in the United States have developed a highly accurate computer model for estimating levels of flu-like illness in the American population by analysing internet traffic on flu-related Wikipedia articles.

The research, published in PLOS Computational Biology on Friday, found the Wikipedia-based model estimated flu levels up to two weeks sooner than data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention became available. The Wikipedia-based model was also more accurate at estimating the timing of peak flu activity than Google Flu Trends, a service developed by the internet search giant that draws on Google search queries.

Google Flu Trends has been found to be susceptible to error at times when there is heavy media coverage of the flu, such as during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and during the unusually severe 2012-13 northern-hemisphere flu season.

But the researchers found their Wikipedia-based model performed well even during these times. Over 294 weeks of data, the average difference between the estimate from the Wikipedia-based model and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention data was just 0.27 per cent.

Currently the United States monitors flu cases by collecting data from almost 3000 healthcare providers, but this comes with a lag of up to two weeks, hampering efforts to distribute vaccines, staff and other healthcare resources to where they are most needed.

The researchers, David McIver and John Brownstein of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said they hoped their Wikipedia-based model could help overcome this problem.

“Each influenza season provides new challenges and uncertainties to both the public as well as the public health community,” the researchers said. “We’re hoping that with this new method of influenza monitoring, we can harness publicly available data to help people get accurate, near-real time information about the level of disease burden in the population.”

The researchers acknowledged a limitation of their model was that it was unable to identify whether article visitors were located in the United States or in other English speaking countries such as Australia, because Wikipedia did not make this information readily available.

Between 250,000 and 500,000 people die worldwide each year from the flu.

The researchers said a similar method could be used to monitor other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or sexually transmitted infections.

Robert de Castella urges funding makeover after Melissa Breen suffers second snub

Melissa Breen, the fastest woman in Australian history, received just $4000 in Athletics Australia’s latest round of funding. Photo: Katherine GriffithsFormer world champion marathon runner Robert de Castella has urged Athletics Australia to increase the amount it invests in developing athletes after sprinter Melissa Breen missed out on substantial funding.
Shanghai night field

Breen, the fastest woman in Australian history, received just $4000 – a third of the funding she was expected to receive – when AA released additions to its National Athlete Support Structure on Thursday.

AA wants to see Breen become more consistent on the international stage and threaten her own national record time of 11.11 seconds at a major competition such as the Commonwealth Games or world championships.

After Breen had received less than expected from AA, wealthy businesswoman Susan Alberti came to her aid for the second time in a matter of months – writing a cheque for $5000 after previously donating $12,000.

De Castella said that AA should reconsider its funding model to reward those athletes who need assistance the most while those already at the top have incomes from other sources.

”I don’t think four grand is enough to support these young, developing athletes,” De Castella said.

”A lot of the top athletes are on shoe contracts and getting funding from other sources, but it’s the ones who are in the category that Mel is at the moment who need the support to help them to get up to that next level.

“I’d really hope Athletics Australia are watching her closely and she demonstrates a bit more consistency and they will quickly recognise her and support her because we need some more good female sprinters.”

Breen is on the third-tier of funding of the national athlete support scheme at Commonwealth Games level, two ranks below the world class and international levels.

That is despite Breen having met the required time for the international standard of 11.21 seconds.

Paralympic Games gold medallist and world champion Evan O’Hanlon described the entire funding model as ”a token gesture to all of their athletes”.

“Everybody deserves more money across the board,” O’Hanlon said.

“You’ve got athletes like Mel who are running Australian records and are getting thrown a little side piece of meat.

”It’s not good for the broader image of the sport and not good for the athletes who are on the edge because they don’t feel like that they’re valued.”

Player power worries Capital Football

Capital Football boss Heather Reid has described the sacking of Matildas coach Hesterine de Reus as ”quite distressing” in a blow to increasing the amount of women coaches and officials in the game.
Shanghai night field

De Reus was removed from her position on Thursday after 15 months in charge as a result of Football Federation Australia holding a review into several complaints made by national team players.

Interim coach Alen Stajic will be one of the favourites to take on the gig full-time, along with former Australian women’s coach Tom Sermanni, while experienced American April Heinrichs and Canberra United championship winner Jitka Klimkova are among those in contention if the FFA prefers a woman.

Reid – the only woman chief executive of a state or territory association in Australia – said getting rid of de Reus set a bad example for trying to get more women in the game.

“That’s what is quite distressing for me personally,” Reid said.

”Here we are trying to do our bit to increase the appointment of female coaches who are qualified and based on merit, and yet female players have largely brought undone the career and reputation of a highly competent and professional coach in Hesterine de Reus.

”Women coaching in Australia have been wary for some time and many former players have been overlooked when blokes have been put in for those jobs.”

De Reus was appointed to the role despite Matildas players sending a letter to the FFA before her appointment preferring to have a male coach.

Czech international Klimkova was considered to be the next-best option behind de Reus at that time after guiding Canberra to the 2011-12 W-League title.

Klimkova’s contract as coach of the New Zealand women’s under-17 team expires in September.

Canberra has had two women coaches in the past three seasons – Klimkova and Dutchwoman Elisabeth Migchelsen.

Reid said the key was ensuring the correct support and management structures were in place to deal with any issues immediately.

“If there were complaints about any of our coaches, whether it was Lis or Jitka or previously Ray [Junna], I would expect those complaints be dealt with in a fair and honest manner,” Reid said.

“We would sit down and discuss with the players and the staff and try and mediate our way through this, and I’m not sure this process has been put in place by the FFA.

”We’ve had issues with some of the support coaches, and we’ve dealt with those issues as well as possible.”

Gallen could be back to tackle SBW

Back for the Sharks … Paul Gallen may play against the Roosters on Saturday.Cronulla captain Paul Gallen could make a shock early return against the Sydney Roosters on Saturday.
Shanghai night field

In a development sure to be welcomed by NSW coach Laurie Daley, Gallen could be back from an ankle injury two weeks earlier than originally planned. The Blues skipper was scheduled to return for the round nine clash against Parramatta but is hopeful of taking on the premiers at Remondis Stadium.

The inspirational backrower trained with the team on Good Friday and will be assessed by the medical staff prior to kick off. Should he pull up without any discomfort, he will be cleared to partake in a salivating personal duel with Roosters star Sonny Bill Williams.

“He’s a quick healer and it’s going to be hard to hold him back,” an insider said. “It all depends on how he pulls up tomorrow.

“He’ll be the man making the final call and you know Gal will be doing everything possible to get back.”

Gallen suffered the injury in the opening loss to the Gold Coast and the Sharks have struggled in his absence. The Shire club is in last position on the ladder, having won only one of their opening six matches. An early return will also be welcomed by the Blues, who have been decimated by injuries to key players. Hooker and vice captain Robbie Farah is in doubt for Origin I due to an elbow problem, while another NSW certainty, Shark Luke Lewis, is also sidelined.

The Sharks were hoping to welcome back another key forward, Anthony Tupou, from the casualty ward. However, he had a setback at training during the week and is more likely to return the following week against Penrith. Winger Beau Ryan is also likely to be available for selection against the Panthers.

There could be other changes to the Sharks line up, with Michael Lichaa tipped to replace hooker Isaac De Gois on the bench. It was thought Lichaa may not play for the club again after pledging his allegiance to the Bulldogs from next year. Lichaa made his NRL debut earlier this year but was banished to the NSW Cup for an apparent lack of loyalty.

A cloud remains over the long-term future of Test prop Andrew Fifita but the Sharks are hopeful he could re-sign in coming weeks.

The Roosters are also desperate to for a win to kickstart their premiership defence, notching just one more win than the Sharks to sit outside the top eight.